State Education Department Releases School Report Cards
LITTLE ROCK – The state Department of Education has released its annual school report cards, which allow parents to evaluate how well their children are being taught and whether they are learning at grade level.
The school report cards provide a wealth of data and create an effective system of accountability for public education.
Soon after the report cards were released, the state Secretary of Education appeared before legislators on the Joint Senate and House Committees on Education to explain the components of Arkansas’s school accountability system.
He opened his remarks by saying that he has heard from some educators who question the advisability of using letter grades. However, he said he’s a strong believer in grading schools from an A to an F because people are familiar with letter grades and understand them.
The data that includes school report cards can be found by searching the Internet for “My School Info.” The secretary later closed his remarks by saying Arkansas officials are studying web sites in other states looking for ways to improve ours and make it more user friendly. He conceded that sometimes educators tend to express themselves with “jargon” that they can understand but ordinary people cannot.
Most schools, 72.4 percent, earned the same letter grade as in 2022. Of the 1,020 schools that were awarded a letter grade 76 earned an A, compared to 77 last year.
Last year 92 schools failed and were given an F grade, and that number improved to 77 schools this year. The importance for Arkansas families is that students who attended a failing school last year are now eligible for financial help through Education Freedom Accounts, which the legislature created earlier this year.
The number of schools getting a D has gone up over the past year from 232 to 252, according to information presented to senators on the Education Committee.
The number of schools that earned a C is almost the same as last year, going up slightly from 414 to 416.
The Education Secretary told legislators that new data available this year allowed him to identify teachers whose students are improving beyond the usual measure of academic growth that is to be expected from one year to the next. He then identified 28 of those successful teachers who work in failing schools.
He asked them to discuss their strategies with Department officials, who are analyzing the characteristics that set them apart from less successful teachers.
Visiting their classrooms he witnessed methods that should not surprise any successful teacher, he said.
They teach “from bell to bell” and thus don’t waste valuable class time on non-essential activities. They have high expectations of every student and they keep them all engaged. No student had on earphones and none had their heads on their desk.
The Department also identified individual schools that showed the most continuous improvement in various indicators of student achievement. Called Schools on the Move Toward Excellence, they’re spread out in all parts of the state and not concentrated in prosperous areas.
Academic improvement ought to continue because the legislature approved the LEARNS Act earlier this year. It enhances literacy programs for elementary students. LEARNS stands for literacy, empowerment, accountability, readiness, networking and safety.